5 Players to Watch in the 49ers Division Battle with Arizona

The 49ers will have to rebound quickly.
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The San Francisco 49ers (2-2) left some points on the table in their defeat to Seattle last week, and also lost key veterans, including starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (calf). 

They’ll have to rebound quickly, with rookie quarterback Trey Lance under center, as they head to their former home to take on the first place Arizona Cardinals (4-0) at 1:25 p.m. on Sunday. 

Before officially going to Week 5, let’s look back on Week 4’s Players to Watch: 

Seahawks 

Dee Eskridge, Wide Receiver, #1 — Went out on a limb with this one, but Eskridge remained inactive with his concussion. His replacement, Freddie Swain, had three catches for 20 yards and a touchdown. 

D.J. Reed, Cornerback, #2 — The former 49er D.J. Reed continued to impress on the outside. San Francisco really could use him. 

49ers 

Emmanuel Moseley, Cornerback, #4 — Emmanuel Moseley rebounded from his tough game against DK Metcalf last season in Seattle. Metcalf’s longest catch was aided by a pick at the line. 

Jaquiski Tartt, Strong Safety, #3 — The San Francisco defense held big-play threat Tyler Lockett in check. The Seahawks’ longest two catches were both 28 yards, but most of that was after the catch. 

Trey Sermon/Kerryon Johnson, Running Backs, #28/33 — Rookie Trey Sermon had a career-high 19 rushes for 89 yards. He’s looking more comfortable. 

Now onto the Cardinals. Here are five players to watch in the 49ers’ division bout: 

A.J. Green, Wide Receiver, #18 — Arizona Cardinals 

Veteran wide receiver A.J. Green has revitalized his career in this high-powered Arizona offense. 

Despite being one of many mouths to feed, Green has six targets in each of his four games. In his last two, he has 10 catches for 179 yards and a touchdown. 

He should see a lot of another veteran -- cornerback Josh Norman -- on Sunday. 

Norman was serviceable against Davante Adams and Green Bay before being sidelined with a chest injury. Fellow veteran Dre Kirkpatrick was not as effective. 

Chandler Jones, Outside Linebacker, #55 — Arizona Cardinals 

Left Tackle Trent Williams (shoulder) was a full participant in Thursday and Friday’s practice, which is huge as outside linebacker Chandler Jones is his next assignment. 

Jones has 5.0 sacks and two forced fumbles through four games this season. 

Yes, all of that came in Week 1 against Tennessee, but Jones does have eight QB hits in his past three games. 

He will mostly line up across Williams, but will rotate to the other side and occasionally rush on right tackle Mike McGlinchey who, believe it or not, has a solid 73.2 PFF grade

Lance has yet to face an elite pass-rusher like Jones. He’ll need to sense the pressure like a seasoned veteran to either find his checkdowns or run for a drive-extending first down. 

Fortunately, he has the highest paid left tackle protecting his blind side. 

Mohamed Sanu Sr., Wide Receiver, #6 — San Francisco 49ers 

Arizona was already thin at cornerback entering the season. Now they are down starter Byron Murphy (out/ribs), and possibly backups Marco Wilson (questionable/ribs) and Antonio Hamilton (questionable/ankle). 

That’s an extremely favorable situation for wide receivers Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and Mohamed Sanu Sr., as well as Lance, who is making his first career start. 

Lance hit Sanu three times on the 49ers’ final drive for 26 yards. Sanu also played just 12 fewer snaps than Aiyuk in Week 4. He might not be a game-wrecker, but he does move the chains (five of eight catches have gone for first downs). 

By getting three receivers on the field, San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan can exploit the Cardinals’ deficiencies in the secondary, and create extremely favorable open-field situations with Lance vs a cornerback. 

Kyle Juszczyk, Fullback, #44 — San Francisco 49ers 

All-Pro tight end George Kittle is doubtful for Sunday with a calf injury. 

With the likelihood of no Kittle, reserve tight end Ross Dwelley theoretically slides into the No. 1 role. 

But Dwelley has yet to really get involved in the passing game this season. 

He has only one target, albeit a big one, as the tight end hauled in a 21-yard pass from Garoppolo for the opening touchdown last week. 

What’s more likely is a heavier workload for fullback Kyle Juszczyk, who played 82% of San Francisco’s offensive snaps against Seattle. 

Juszczyk already has 11 catches on 12 targets for 100 yards, six first downs and a touchdown. The 49ers should try to spread the Cardinals out and take advantage of their lack of corners. 

But that doesn’t mean they should abandon the inside run game. They need Jusczczyk, their biggest mismatch, on the field for play action. 

Azeez Al-Shaair, Linebacker, #51 — San Francisco 49ers 

The 49ers need better production from their young linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair, who has been starting in place of the injured Dre Greenlaw. 

Not only will he be tasked with chasing down the dynamic (and leading-MVP candidate) Kyler Murray, he’ll need to play lockdown coverage against one of the most lethal air attacks in the NFL. 

Pass defense has not been Al-Shaair's strength. 

Quarterbacks have a 130.8 passer rating against him with 20 completions on 26 targets for 163 yards and three touchdowns according to Pro Football Reference. Just last week, Al-Shaair allowed three catches on three targets for 53 yards and two touchdowns (the first was a tough ask guarding Metcalf, the other he got lost in coverage). 

For the first time in years, the Cardinals are using their tight end. Maxx Williams caught all five targets for a total of 66 yards and a touchdown last week. Eight of his 15 catches have gone for first downs this season. 

In addition to Williams, Arizona also heavily utilizes running back Chase Edmonds in the passing game. The shifty back already has 20 catches for 140 yards. 

The Cardinals have too many weapons to hide Al-Shaair in coverage. San Francisco needs him to play well on Sunday. 

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